Water and product labels don’t always get along, to say the least.
This can present a major challenge to companies like beverage brands, beauty product makers, or any company whose product is liquid – and used or stored in wet conditions. On glass bottles (a popular and sustainable choice for these products), the wrong label could turn into a pulpy mess or slide off altogether.
It’s only natural, then, to ponder getting waterproof labels for glass bottles instead. But…do you really need them?
Here’s the short answer: For many applications, waterproof labels are overkill. You probably don’t need waterproof labels (with a few exceptions, which we’ll explain below).
But, you may need water-resistant labels.
How will you know which you need? First, let’s brush up on the precise differences.
"Wait — What If We Use Plastic or Metal Containers Instead of Glass?"
The general advice in this blog will still apply, whether you use glass containers, plastic, metal, or anything else. But, make sure to tell your label vendor if your packaging will be exposed to (or submerged in) water or any other liquid. They can recommend the best facestock and label adhesive combination to make sure your label looks and performs the way it should.
Waterproof Labels vs. Water-Resistant Labels: What’s the Difference?
While many people use the terms “waterproof” and “water-resistant” interchangeably, they have very different meanings to a label printer.
A waterproof label should withstand nearly any amount of moisture — including complete submersion — for longer periods of time.
Water-resistant labels can handle the occasional splash, misting, or even temporary submersion, but eventually, the water will damage or destroy the label.
There are degrees of water resistance, and therefore, many more options for water-resistant label components than there are waterproof label elements.
For example, paper is obviously not a waterproof or water-resistant substance. But a plastic film laminate can offer a paper label some protection against minor water exposure. However, the laminate’s protective power decreases as the water exposure increases. Eventually, the water will work its way beneath the laminate and degrade the paper label.
A film base with a film laminate may offer the ultimate in long-lasting waterproof protection, especially if you expect your product to experience complete submersion.
But…how likely is that scenario?
The Risk of Over-Engineering
Most brands start considering waterproof labels for glass bottles because they imagine how their customers will react to runny ink, peeling adhesive, and torn label materials. A messy label does not necessarily speak to your product’s quality.
However, over-engineering for extreme environments that your product may only rarely encounter carries its own risks. You don’t want to spend more on your label than is necessary. Nor should you pass over eye-catching label design options simply because they’re not waterproof.
When clients ask us about waterproof labels for glass bottles, we ask them, “When and how does your product typically get wet?”
Will Your Product Be Fully Submerged?
At the same time, your customers may expect and tolerate a certain amount of label damage. After all, how many people plan on retaining their beer bottles after drinking, unless it’s a particularly special or unique bottle of brew?
You know your customers best, so consider their priorities and values carefully before deciding between waterproof and water-resistant labels for your glass bottles.
What Is the Label Application Environment Like?
Although most labeling occurs in ambient room conditions, sometimes labels need to be applied in a refrigerated setting or even freezer environments where condensation or ice and gather on the outside of the bottle. Most adhesives will perform poorly if applied in wet conditions — although a tiny bit of moisture and cold may not be a problem, depending on the adhesive.
Also consider the filling process, as liquids will sometimes splash onto the sides of the bottle, potentially ruining the label before the bottle has even been capped.
Your label printer can help you choose adhesives, materials, and inks that are well-suited to your filling process and storage environment.
(Keep in mind: Most common label adhesives will perform admirably if applied in dry room temperature conditions and then transferred to a refrigerator. Again, to avoid over-engineering, speak with your label printer about your product’s typical environmental conditions.)
Typical Applications of Waterproof Labels (and Water-Resistant Labels)
So far, we’ve already described a few situations where some degree of water resistance may be a good fit for glass bottle labels.
Another circumstance that may call for waterproof or water-resistant labels is when labeling refillable glass bottles.
Eco-friendly cleaning products (such as Blueland) reduce packaging waste by encouraging consumers to continue refilling — rather than replacing — their bottles. In these cases, the product labels need to last just as long as the bottles. (Not to mention, the labels may experience frequent spills and splashes.) Waterproof labels might be the right choice here. Another example would be a hand soap bottle with an attractive label: It’s pretty much a given that it’s going to get refilled and used over and over, so the label needs to last.
Do You Need Waterproof Labels for Glass Bottles – or Any Other Containers? Ask Your Label Printer
Waterproof and water-resistant labels can protect your labels from devastating amounts of damage. On the other hand, they may not be necessary at all.
You shouldn’t have to decide on your own. The right label printer will help you identify if you genuinely need a waterproof label, if a water-resistant label will get the job done, or if a standard label is sufficient. No matter what, you’ll get the perfect label that does the job and looks great.